A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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3) Evil

A third extreme axiological position can still be examined: evil, i.e. the axiological position according to which cruelty, violence and the suffering of others are of great value. This position is radically different from that of eclecticism, because it does not go beyond the affirmation of the value of the Whole. For the lover of evil, goodness, morality, the pursuit of other people's happiness and pity are nothing more than contemptible things.

This position seems difficult to conceive, since it is noticeable that a large number of works on morality never give the floor to authors who have affirmed the value of evil, such as Sade, for example. It seems that this would be the first thing to do, since we can only respond to those who attack morality if we have really listened to what they say. It is even noticeable that works on the specific problem of evil are devoid of any reference to the immoralists.

It is a very particular kind of evil that interests us here. It is not the evil that we commit out of ignorance, or out of coercion, or involuntarily. It is not the evil that I would commit because of a difficult integration into an unjust society that would reject me, according to a perspective dear to sociologists. Nor the evil committed because the physiologically defective structure of my brain would alienate my judgement.
In a word, it is unapologetic evil that we are trying to think about, that is to say evil that stems from a conscious, reasoned and voluntary axiological affirmation: "Evil has great value" or "Evil has more value than good". I will call such a position "radical evil".

The very possibility that a man could support such an idea seems to be rarely accepted, since sociological, biological or psychoanalytical explanations of evil are dominant today. According to these explanations, the love of evil appears as a symptom, an illness, social or psychological, the cause of which must be sought in order to cure the patient, or the victim (of an alienating society).

For the axiologist, on the other hand, the love of evil is an entirely consistent doctrine to be taken into consideration, since the value of morality is unfounded, and there is for the moment no serious condemnation of immorality that would allow us to conclude that it lacks value.
To maintain that evil is a symptom or a disease is to imagine that no man can rationally and with full knowledge of the facts choose evil, or that evil cannot be loved for its own sake. It is only because a man is forced to do so (by society, by his childhood, by the abnormal structure of his brain) that he indulges in evil.

The axiologist will argue, on the contrary, that since no value is founded, the love of good is for the moment no more rational than the love of evil; that while indeed many bad actions can find a psychoanalytical or sociological explanation, there is a certain kind of evil that we must take seriously, which is affirmed in the following axiological position: evil is the supreme value.
We have to take it seriously for the sake of neutrality: at some point in our thinking, we have to give evil a chance, otherwise the immoral would be right to claim that axiological enquiry is biased, and therefore doomed to failure. We must therefore, even if it hurts our deepest feelings, even if we shudder at the thought of all that lies behind this proposition, admit that perhaps evil has a value...

Here again, it is difficult to find an author who defends such a position, as was already the case for eclecticism. Two names spring to mind spontaneously: Nietzsche and Sade; yet, as we shall see, it does not seem to us that they can illustrate what we call the love of evil.